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Health Talk With Shonali Sabherwal

Health Talk With Shonali Sabherwal



I am currently in an uphill battle with my weight issues :-( Just to give you a bit of a background, I  have been very fit (to a point that some would call underweight) my whole life. However, a few years back when I shifted cities; a major change in lifestyle and a sedentary job resulted in me piling on the kilos. At first it didn't seem to bother me but when it started affecting my health, I realised that it was time to make some changes. 

I had given up on dieticians and exercise fads, when I decided to educate myself on the subject. A trip to crosswords resulted in me purchasing nine books, one of which was The Beauty Diet. I don't remember exactly why I picked up the book as I wasn't aware of Shonali Sabherwal nor her superstar followers, but I am so glad that I did. 

What I loved about, The Beauty Diet, was that apart from giving me a basic understanding of diet and nutrition; it gave me a starting point. The book features sample diet plans and recipes, which was great for someone like me, who does well with clear directions. I started cooking food as per the book and for the first time in two years, I saw my weight shift in the right direction. 

Needless to say after the positive results, I reached out to Shonali Sabherwal, to further learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. I have picked her brains plenty of time and am so happy to share excerpts from an interview that I conducted with her for all my readers. 

Here is what Macrobiotics Nutritionist, Author and Chef, Shonali Sabherwal has to say: 

To begin with, can you tell me a bit about what Macrobiotics entails and how the approach is different from conventional diets.

Macrobiotics works on an ‘energetic principle’ the principle of ‘prana’ that is your universal ‘life force’ split into two polarities ‘yin’ and ‘yang’. This principle is used to diagnose clients, analyse their food habit, analyse their constitutions and conditions. The diagnostic skills a practitioner uses is from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system. So a practitioner can diagnose you facially and assess the strength of your organs. Also, touch meridian diagnosis happens in a consult sometimes if required to assess strength of a particular organ. So its a deep science helps establish a framework that is used to understand a clients condition. It steps beyond protein, carbohydrates and fats and looks at causes and effects based on the foods consumed in the past.

With Starbucks popping up in every corner of the city and coffee becoming an integral part of our daily intake; what would you suggest as a substitute for those coffee breaks?

I would suggest anything warm, but de-caffeinated. Caffeine will wire you up and cause further imbalances, it also causes mood swings and blood sugar imbalances. Therefore, it is not the best option during those breaks. What most people need is a buzz, and what most people do not realize is that they are suffering from energy depletion, which if they sort out they will not need the coffee in the first place. By introducing whole grains like brown rice and millets you will get sustained sugars giving you energy so the energy depletion can be tackled.

Most people tend to be disciplined during the week, but the weekend is a different story. What would you suggest as 'Monday Detox,' to recover from the weekend.

I would keep it raw; that is if you have a strong digestive system to handle raw. Fruits, veggie juices, leafy green juices and one main meal with no oil.

The most frequently asked question on my blog is "how do I get thick long hair?" Hence, I have to ask, what are few key foods that we should include in our diet to improve the health of our hair?

First the trigger foods must go out of your diet for at least 4 months. This includes dairy, sugar, white flour [maida] as the main ones; then avoid processed and refined foods. Keep your diet clean by eating whole garins, beans/legumes/fish/chicken, lots of veggies and loads of leafy greens; add good fermentation via quick pickles, pressed salads. If you are a vegetarian add amaranth and quinoa as extras to your diet. Get your trace minerals from spirulina and kombu both are sea weeds now available in India. Add Vitamin C kiwi, berries, guava, gooseberry, broccoli, oranges, all help; add omeag 3: pumpkin seeds, walnuts, avocado and fish; Vitamin A from all your coloured veggies like peppers, carrots, pumpkins;Plenty of nuts for Vitamin E; Biotin from whole grains, tofu and eggs if you eat them.

What are some of your key pointers for eating out for someone with a very active social life? 

Make sure you include plenty of good fermentation via quick pickling, veggie cultures, probiotic non-dairy drinks in your diet. Make sure you eat a whole grain: brown rice or millet once a day, add miso to your soup or dahl again promoting fermentation; don’t drink coffees, teas and colas sodas when out. if you eat meats then balance it out with leafy greens or veggies.

Carbs are bad for you. Myth or Fact?

Refined carbs which have maida like bread, white pasta; white rice which is refined and stripped of everything need to be excluded. Complex carbs like brown rice, all the millets:jovar (sorghum), nachni, ragi, bajra (not in summer) mustbe included, for those that digest whole wheat this must be included. These bring in stable sugars that burn slowly over 8 hours and also insoluble fibre to promote a healthy digestive system.

If someone has a vegetable phobia (like me) and don't enjoy eating vegetarian dishes what are some ways they can start to incorporate vegetables in their diet?

One was is through soups, the can have a combination of any 3 vegetables that would help, salads if you have a good digestive system to handle raw foods also helps [you maybe more prone to eat a salad as opposed to a cooked vegetable]; another way would be to mix it in your whole grain like a fired rice, or in your legumes (beans/dahls) like add any veggie to your dahl. This way you can have the veggie, but its not staring you in the face if your are phobic about it.

Everyone I know is signed up at a gym and all instructors are recommending protein powder. There is a lot of conflicting information available on this subject online. What is your take on the same?

I don’t believe in anything that causes the body to get overloaded. Every protein powder is using whey (milk solid) so if the protein powder has whey I do not recommend it at all. Most people are intolerant to dairy, so this will affect thos epeople and also over time cause an overload for the body to assimilate this product. The new protein wonder product is casein, also a milk protein this substance also does not digest very well. Eventually the digestive loads up, and the kidneys cannot handle the protein. They have also known to cause cholesterol issues, heart problems, high blood pressure in the long run. Nothing like natural sources of protein from food. If you’d like to ‘up’ the protein in your diet then ‘up’ the sources from foods.

I found your book, The Beauty Diet really helpful and have just started reading The Love Diet. Are there any more books in the pipeline? If someone is interested in taking a cooking lesson or finding out more how can they get in touch with you?

Yes, there is another book in the pipeline, I am not at liberty to discuss the title or subject matter as I am bound bythe publisher. However, all I can say its a book that is much needed in India at the moment. I have workshops which are being announced at present on my social media pages links below. You can send me an e mail at shonaalii@macrobioticsindia.com and I can add you to my mailing list. I do one-on-one consultations for any health condition, including weight loss/gain.

To know more about Shonali Sabherwal you can visit her website or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube

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